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April 23, 2013

Rereading my old Queer Cowper paper, it occurs to me that I did not adequately focus on how to develop Eve Sedgwick’s theorisation of homosociability.   If, as Sedgwick argues, homosociability part and parcel of heteronormativity (building of Gayle Rubin’s understanding of heterosexuality as being essentially “between men”), then is it worth arguing that heterosociability is charged with anti-heteronormative potential?

Cowper is ideal for this – all his important relationships are with women and (yet?) he challenges heterosexual assumptions and stereotypes throughout his life.  The ability of a man to communicate naturally and honestly with women appears therefore to challenge many of the structuring norms of compulsory heterosexuality.

Of course, Cowper is only a first step in this strategy for queering the eighteenth century.  Heterosociability provides the basis (or base camp) for the slow, careful, ascent of the Mount Olympus of Enlightenment subversion – Queer Johnson.

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